Managing My Daughter’s Anxiety and Depression With The Latest Science

We no longer have to use the 'trial and error' approach

by: Erica Ehm


My daughter, along with many of her friends, struggles with anxiety and depression. And as they say, you’re only as happy as your saddest kid. Suffice to say, we’ve had some lows around our home over the last three years. 

At first, I was in denial. When doctors expressed concern about my daughter’s well-being and physical safety, I was hit with a wall of grief. And worry. And fear. And sadness. And a bunch of other big emotions I still can’t process.

She started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as well as working with a psychiatrist. While her therapist pinpointed emotional triggers, her psychiatrist began the difficult drug guessing game. Which medication would work best for my complicated girl’s brain.  

I was warned that prescribing drugs for anxiety and depression is a challenging process. With over 35 approved anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drugs on the market and multiple dosing possibilities, doctors rely on the “trial and error” method to find a tolerable treatment that works.

You try one brand at a low dose, check for side effects, then slowly up the dosage. Hard stop when side effects show up.

Listening to my daughter’s psychiatrist asking her to let him know if she hears voices or wants to self-harm after taking the drugs was terrifying. Knowing the side effects of the pills could actually make her worse made my husband and I feel helpless, wondering if we were doing what was best for her. 

And then life presented me with a gift. At a medical conference, I was introduced to Nancy White, CEO of Inagene Diagnostics. Nancy introduced me to the science of pharmacogenetics and a new personalized genetic test Inagene was launching. This simple DNA test lists which anxiety, depression and pain medication works for you and which you should avoid based on your genetic makeup. 

It’s a simple test done at home by swabbing the inside of your mouth, sending the sample in to be analyzed. Within a couple of weeks you receive results of what drugs work well, or drugs to avoid based on your unique genetic makeup. 

So, we got our hands on a kit and my daughter did the test. When her results came back, I was so relieved to see that the names of both medications she’s currently on had big green checkboxes beside them, indicating they are the right ones for my daughter’s genetic makeup. There were a number of other depression medications listed flagged with red x’s warning that they won’t metabolize properly in her body, and she should not use them. 


I’m actually going to take the test myself now that I see it also tracks which pain medication is best for you, including over the counter meds like Advil and Tylenol, based on your DNA.

Up until now, patients with mental health issues, and doctors for that matter, have been in the dark about what treatment to prescribe. I know that my daughter’s journey to recovery is long and complicated, but with these personalized test results, I feel less helpless and more able to advocate on her behalf. If you could help support your kids, or yourself, with a simple, personalized test, wouldn’t you?

I’m sharing this very personal story for those of you in similar situations. I want you to know you’re not alone and that there are new tools, like Inagene’s, to help. I am excited to be working with Nancy and the Inagene team to spread the word about this revolutionary new science that will make a difference in so many lives. 


Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Erica Ehm has gone from rock'n roll to rocking the cradle. After a decade starring on MuchMusic, she had kids and is the founder of and the Ehm & Co, a digital agency focused on moms. Erica's two teens Josh and Jessie, and hubby Terry help her put life into perspective.